The Canadiens, who claimed Betts on Oct. 5, used NHL bylaw 11.8 (a) to send the 31-year-old Betts back to Philadelphia. Commissioner Gary Bettman made the decision after reviewing submissions from both teams.
"While it is clear that both clubs have acted in good faith in this unique situation (i.e. a waiver claim), I am not prepared to dispute the conclusion of the Montreal club doctors that Mr. Betts was physically unfit to play at the time of the claim," Bettman said in a statement. "Therefore, it is my decision that, per league bylaws, the appropriate resolution to this matter is to restore the parties to the position they were in prior to the waiver claim on Oct. 5."
The bylaw states a player claimed on waivers may be returned if he's deemed to be physically unfit.
Betts, set to earn $700,000 this season, has had problems with his right shoulder in recent years and had surgery in June 2010. But he returned to play 75 games last season.
He was expected to play in the Canadiens' opener Thursday night in Toronto, but was scratched from the lineup in order to undergo a physical exam. Betts told reporters his shoulder problems were behind him, but he had a lower-body injury and did not expect to be out of action for long.